When I was growing up, I heard people everywhere using the name of Jesus and God in different contexts. Sometimes it was as a simple expression of surprise, fear, shock, and other times to genuinely ask the Lord for help. As a young person, I was never instructed on when people were using the name of God in vain and why I should stop doing the same.
It was later in life that I found out the truth and discovered that not only I had been using Jesus’s name in vain, but I also didn’t know when it was appropriate to use the Lord’s name as a prayer. Breaking the habit of using God’s name in vain has been a struggle, especially since, for a very long period of my life, I used it without thinking.
I know many Catholics have been in a similar situation and still don’t understand what’s wrong or what’s right when it comes to calling on the name of Jesus. We all know the Scriptures tell us to call on the Lord in our hour of need and show us many examples of people doing so. People in the Bible, as well as the saints trusted God and knew their prayers would be heard because He promised it (we can see Jesus promising so in Lk 11: 5-13). So, let’s take a look at some examples of when to call on the Holy Name of Jesus.
When Can We Use The Name Of Jesus
In moments of sickness
We all have done this at least a few times in our lives, in hopes that the Lord would heal us or someone we love. God, in His infinite love and wisdom, has allowed sickness and old age to be part of our lives, but it doesn’t mean He is indifferent to the suffering of our mortal flesh. That is why calling upon His name when we feel weak and tired is so important. See, for example, how God sent archangel Raphael to help Tobit recover his eyesight, among other things (Tb ch 5-12). Recall all the people healed from their illnesses during Jesus’s earthly ministry. So, let’s not be hesitant to call upon His Holy Name when sickness knocks on our door.
When in need of consolation
This one is very important in our current society, where depression and hopelessness are too common. We might not be going through that suffering, but so many others are. Calling upon the Lord when the need for consolation is profound is the best option we have. Jesus understands what it is to be in a state of anxiety and desperate loneliness. He certainly wants to be with anyone going through the same.
When temptation strikes
We rarely think about this one. Whenever we feel evil thoughts of any kind (whether it is wishing someone evil or envying anyone or distorted sexual ideas), we should pause and immediately call upon the Lord to clear our minds and hearts from such thoughts and feelings.
I call upon His name when my brain brings to mind bad memories that awaken past resentments, things that I forgave long ago. The temptation of being captive to the past is something the devil causes in me more often than I want to. Calling upon the Lord’s name helps defeat the temptation and stops the train of negative thoughts.
Whenever we need something
This doesn’t mean that we only pray when we need something or for good things to happen. It means that we ask God for what we need and then place our trust in His hands.
My grandmother was a very good cook and she always began her meal prep by calling upon the Lord. She trusted the Lord would help her even in the smallest of things, especially when it meant she was caring for the family the Lord gave her. She would do so every time she started something, even though the rest of my family considered it ridiculous. Many years after her passing, I understood what she was doing and the lesson of humility she was teaching us. The Lord must be Lord of every single moment of our lives, and she was humbly inviting Him into her work.
To praise His Holy Name and give Him thanks
Sadly, this use is maybe the one we forget most of the time. We ask and ask, which is good because we are beggars of God’s mercy, but we seldom remember to praise His name in thanksgiving when our pleas have been heard. It is right and just to use His Name to praise Him for the greatness of His glory, for the majesty of His creation, and for everything He gives us each day. Let’s not take for granted what we’ve been given, but constantly remember to praise God for it.
One of my favorite catholic thinkers and writers, G. K. Chesterton, summarized the extent of what we should be grateful for when he said:
That is why we all need to learn to praise the Lord and give Him thanks whenever possible. This may mean we can use His name to thank Him for a goodnight’s sleep, for laughing hard to our heart’s content, for the ice cream we ate, for being able to breath with no difficulties, for having a home, for the running water…the list is endless.
These examples are not meant to be an exhaustive list, only a short guide. However, I would like to share an example of how to use the Holy Name of Jesus in a much broader way. Bishop José Ignacio Munilla in Spain has modeled this since the beginning of his ministry. When he was first appointed bishop of San Sebastian, Spain, he consecrated everything he did to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whenever he had to solve a problem, address a specific situation, host a conference, talk to difficult people, or fix the most secular (and probably most anti-catholic) diocese in Spain, he called upon the Lord’s name before taking action.
Monsignor Munilla’s work is well recognized in Spain and elsewhere. He’s one of the most committed bishops in that country and did an excellent job increasing vocations as well as reviving the faith of everyone in the Diocese of San Sebastian. Many things that were lost were recovered, and now more people are working hard for the evangelization of the area. He has his own YouTube channel, “En ti confío” (I trust in you, name after the prayer to the Sacred Heart. He is the shepherd of a new diocese (Orihuela Alicante) and he continues calling upon the Lord’s name for every little task he does as well as praising the Lord for the amazing outcomes he has witnessed.
When To Avoid Using The Lord’s Name
– To show surprise or shock every time we speak, like a simple exclamation. (Ex. Oh My God!)
– To swear by God’s or Jesus’s name. (Ex. I swear to God…)
– To curse
Golden Arrow Prayer Of Reparation
When you hear the name of Our Lord used in vain or you make a mistake and do so yourself, pray this prayer as act of reparation.